LAFD History – Never Forget – 9/11/2001

August 31, 2019

The 9-11 Terrorist Attack on the USA

Frank’s Note:
Many members of the LAFD were not on the job 18 years ago when the US was attacked by terrorists on 9-11-2001. Many of those members of the new rookie classes were probably in grade school when it occurred. We must not forget the loss of 3,000 people and those 343 members of the FDNY who sacrificed their lives for others. On a personal note I lost a very good friend at the incident. Battalion Chief Ray Downey was killed at the command post in the tower collapse. He was a national expert in Urban Search & Rescue and a true friend. We taught US&R together and worked on the National Response system with FEMA to get the program started.

Some of our retired members and some active responded to New Your City to help in the rescue and support operations with our Urban Search & Rescue Team and CIST teams. Our Department has had a motto since 2001 – “Never Forget.” The LAFD must be vigilant and ready to respond 24/7.

Today there are many first responders who are suffering from illnesses related to their exposure at the incident and many have died from cancer and other life threatening problems. Their continued support is critical.

Some of the Story of Events:

Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 hijackers took control of four commercial airliners (two Boeing 757 and two Boeing 767) en route to California (three headed to LAX in Los Angeles, and one to San Francisco) after takeoffs from Boston, Massachusetts; Newark, New Jersey; and Washington, D.C Large planes with long flights were selected for hijacking because they would be heavily fueled.

The four flights were:
American Airlines Flight 11: Left Boston’s Logan Airport at 7:59 a.m. en route to Los Angeles with a crew of 11 and 76 passengers, not including five hijackers. The hijackers flew the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m.
United Airlines Flight 175: Left Logan Airport at 8:14 a.m. en route to Los Angeles with a crew of nine and 51 passengers, not including five hijackers. The hijackers flew the plane into the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m.
American Airlines Flight 77: Left Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia at 8:20 a.m. en route to Los Angeles with a crew of six and 53 passengers, not including five hijackers. The hijackers flew the plane into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.
United Airlines Flight 93: Left Newark International Airport at 8:42 a.m. en route to San Francisco, with a crew of seven and 33 passengers, not including four hijackers. As passengers attempted to subdue the hijackers, the aircraft crashed into the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 10:03 a.m.


The attacks resulted in the deaths of 2,996 people, including the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims. The victims included 246 on the four planes (from which there were no survivors), 2,606 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon. Nearly all of the victims were civilians; 55 military personnel were among those killed at the Pentagon.

More than 90% of the workers and visitors who died in the towers had been at or above the points of impact. In the North Tower, 1,355 people at or above the point of impact were trapped and died of smoke inhalation, fell or jumped from the tower to escape the smoke and flames, or were killed in the building’s eventual collapse. The destruction of all three staircases in the tower when Flight 11 hit made it impossible for anyone above the impact zone to escape. 107 people below the point of impact died as well.

In the South Tower, one stairwell (A), was left intact after Flight 175 hit, allowing 14 people located on the floors of impact (including one man who saw the plane coming at him) and four more from the floors above to escape. 911 operators who received calls from individuals inside the tower were not well informed of the situation as it rapidly unfolded and as a result, told callers not to descend the tower on their own. 630 people died in that tower, fewer than half the number killed in the North Tower. Casualties in the South Tower were significantly reduced by some occupants deciding to start evacuating as soon as the North Tower was struck.

At least 200 people fell or jumped to their deaths from the burning towers (as exemplified in the photograph The Falling Man), landing on the streets and rooftops of adjacent buildings hundreds of feet below. Some occupants of each tower above the point of impact made their way toward the roof in hope of helicopter rescue, but the roof access doors were locked. No plan existed for helicopter rescues, and the combination of roof equipment and thick smoke and intense heat prevented helicopters from approaching. A total of 411 emergency workers died as they tried to rescue people and fight fires. The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) lost 340 firefighters, a chaplain, and two paramedics. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) lost 23 officers. The Port Authority Police Department lost 37 officers. Eight emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics from private emergency medical services units were killed.

Cantor Fitzgerald L.P., an investment bank on the 101st–105th floors of the North Tower, lost 658 employees, considerably more than any other employer. Marsh Inc., located immediately below Cantor Fitzgerald on floors 93–100, lost 358 employees, and 175 employees of Aon Corporation were also killed. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) estimated that about 17,400 civilians were in the World Trade Center complex at the time of the attacks. Turnstile counts from the Port Authority suggest 14,154 people were typically in the Twin Towers by 8:45 a.m. The vast majority of people below the impact zone safely evacuated the buildings. More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Rescue efforts

The New York City Fire Department deployed 200 units (half of the department) to the site. Their efforts were supplemented by numerous off-duty firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The New York City Police Department sent Emergency Service Units and other police personnel, and deployed its aviation unit. Once on the scene, the FDNY, NYPD, and Port Authority police did not coordinate efforts and performed redundant searches for civilians. As conditions deteriorated, the NYPD aviation unit relayed information to police commanders, who issued orders for its personnel to evacuate the towers; most NYPD officers were able to safely evacuate before the buildings collapsed. With separate command posts set up and incompatible radio communications between the agencies, warnings were not passed along to FDNY commanders.

After the first tower collapsed, FDNY commanders issued evacuation warnings; however, due to technical difficulties with malfunctioning radio repeater systems, many firefighters never heard the evacuation orders. 9-1-1 dispatchers also received information from callers that was not passed along to commanders on the scene. Within hours of the attack, a substantial search and rescue operation was launched. After months of around-the-clock operations, the World Trade Center site was cleared by the end of May 2002.

LAFD Response: September 11, 2001 reinvigorated America’s gratitude for all firefighters’ efforts. In response to the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, FEMA activated and deployed the Los Angeles City Fire Department CA-TF 1 (California Urban Search & Rescue Task Force 1) with 70 members and a Critical Incident Stress Management Team (CISM). The military aircraft transporting our US&R team was the first aircraft in the sky after the attack. Their mission included search and rescue, body extrication, and assistance in the use of canine search teams. In addition, many LAFD members responded on their own to assist their FDNY brothers. The CISM mission evolved into a completely unprecedented Firefighter Assistance Program, which was delivered at and near ground zero as well as at various FDNY Fire Stations and other sites. Working with many other agencies for the first-time, FEMA honored the combined efforts by making the teams the first FEMA sponsored program in the history of CISM. Several LAFD Officers were also sent as a part of the Incident Support Team for the Task forces sent to the disaster.

Submitted by Frank Borden

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